Alert: Changes to Chicago’s Sexual Harassment Laws

July 18, 2022

Following the lead of several other states, effective July 1, 2022, the city of Chicago will be implementing changes to their existing sexual harassment laws. The changes consist of six key components that seek to educate workers and strengthen worker protections when it comes to sexual harassment.

The first component of the new law enhances the definition of sexual harassment to explicitly include sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct is defined as “any behavior of a sexual nature which also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual’s employment position.” This definition change took effect on June 4, 2022.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Second, all employers must have a written policy on sexual harassment along with a written notice posted in a position for all employees to see. The written policy must be available in the employee’s primary language within the first calendar week of starting employment. The policy must include a statement that sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago, the definition of sexual harassment, and examples of prohibited conduct that constitute sexual harassment, among other requirements. The Chicago Commission on Human Relations will provide a compliant model policy and written notice for all employers to use if they do not wish to create their own. All employers must comply with these two requirements by July 1, 2022.

Illinois Victims’ Economic and Security and Safety Act

Third, the changes allow the Chicago Commission on Human Relations to expand notification to the respondent (the person alleged to have caused harm) timeline from 10 days to up to 30 days. The change is intended to help to mitigate any retaliation such as a denial of a reasonable accommodation request under the Illinois Victims’ Economic and Security and Safety Act. In connection with expanding the respondent timeline, victims will now have 365 days, instead of 300 days, to report sexual harassment. These changes took effect on June 4, 2022.

Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

Pursuant to the 4th update, employers are now also required to provide annual training for all employees. All regular employees must receive one hour of sexual harassment prevention training and all supervisory employees and managers must receive an additional one hour of sexual harassment prevention training. In addition, the fifth component requires all employees, regardless if they are supervisory or non-supervisory, to obtain one hour of bystander intervention training.  According to the city of Chicago, “bystander intervention involves safe and positive actions that may be carried out by a person, or a group of people to prevent harm or intervene where there is a risk or perceived risk of sexual harassment to another.” Compliant training models will be available on the Chicago Commission on Human Relations’ website.

Lastly, penalties are now greater for discrimination, ranging anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 per violation as opposed to previously ranging from $500 to $1,000 per violation.

Sexual Harassment Policy

To prepare for the effective date of these changes on July 1, 2022, Chicago employees should obtain a model sexual harassment policy and written notice from the Chicago Commission of Human Relations’ website or create their own in accordance with the guidelines. Additionally, Chicago employers should create a plan to implement the required training hours, as all employers are required to complete the training by June 30, 2023. 

All information related to these changes can be found at the Chicago Commission of Human Relations.

Contact ByrdAdatto

At ByrdAdatto we are working hard to ensure our clients are well equipped and ready for operating their business. If you have questions regarding this alert, email us at info@byrdadatto.com or call 214.291.3200.

We are grateful for the significant research and drafting contribution to this article from our Law Clerk, Emily Reese. Emily is a third year student at SMU Dedman School of Law.

ByrdAdatto attorney Rene Coover

Renee E. Coover

ByrdAdatto attorney Renee Coover is a trained opera singer and an excellent communicator.